Anthony will bring goals, cheats and defensive intensity to Man United

Four bids and €100m later, Anthony is set to finally become a Manchester United player.

the athlete It reported on August 28 that United and Ajax had finally settled on a fee for the Brazilian winger: €95m guaranteed (2.7 per cent of which would go to Anthony’s former club Sao Paulo as a solidarity payment). An additional €5 million will be paid in add-ons once certain criteria are met.

Why did United make so much effort to reunite Erik ten Hag with the former Ajax winger? It’s a deal that makes Anthony the most expensive in Eredivise history and raises many tactical questions.

This is what the manager planned for his new signature…

What is Anthony?

Purchased by Ajax in February 2020, Anthony was Ten Hag’s bid to replace the late Hakim Ziyech in Ajax’s “second era”. The winger will operate slightly differently compared to its predecessor due to the adjustments the manager has made to the team since the 2018-2019 Champions League semi-finals.

Ajax in 2020-21 and 2021-22 with Anthony relied to a lesser degree on the attacking moves of “overloading the wing and then switching” in 2018-19. Ryan Gravenberch succeeded Frenkie de Jong, giving the team more offensive threat in the offensive third. Sebastian Haller presented more of the aerial threat at the front. There were more layers of how these teams played.

Both Ziyech and Anthony are capable of dribbling who want to break in and shoot on goal, but Anthony will start to attack from a wider position compared to the Moroccan. Right-back Nossair Mazraoui has become a more visible left-back working behind Anthony, who is more of a player on the ball, rather than an outright threat like Ziyech, who shoots much more.

We can get a better understanding of his playing style using smarterscout data, which gives players a rating of 0-99, in terms of either how often they perform a particular action compared to others in their positions (such as ball retrievals and interceptions), or how effective it is (such as how far the ball advances in stadium).

Here’s what the above graph tells us:

  • Anthony is the dynamic scorer and goal maker rather than the right winger “reaching the side line and cross”. Although he is good at dribbling, for most of last season he has been advancing the ball with higher passes (consecutive passes, 64 of 99) rather than carrying the ball (carrying and dribbling size, 34 of 99).
  • He keeps the ball well (ball holding ability, 83 out of 99), and is reasonably good at building the team with shorter passes (link playing volume, 66 out of 99). Anthony’s close control of dribbling will impress United fans this season. He is someone who is able to work his way out of fraught situations.
  • He does not shirk his defensive duties. His defensive intensity (73 out of 99) shows that he is active in getting close to his leg when needed. The high volume of his recoveries and interceptions (81 of 99) also indicate that he does not run after the man who owns him like a headless chicken; There is a rhyme and a reason for his pressing attempts.

Anthony was very effective with Ajax last season (eight goals and four assists in 23 Eredivisie matches) partly because Ten Hag created a team that controls the ball well and can put pressure on opponents. The arrival of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen United should aid in this endeavor, but Anthony’s signing raises questions and answers.

What will he bring to the United attack?

A assist against FC Emmen in November 2020 is a good example of what we can expect from Antony. The movement begins with the passing of the right-back Ajax Mazraoui to the right. Anthony, who is in a tight position, runs out wide to grab the ball…

Before turning…

His defender stands.

The Ajax winger has great speed to beat his leg…

…before he was flogged on a cross with his left foot.

The cross is then converted by striker Lassina Traore.

Ajax went on to win the match 5-0 and won the league and cup double that season. Anthony finished the campaign with nine goals and eight assists in the league (32 games).

You can watch all his goals and assists on YouTube to get an idea of ​​Anthony’s frequent moves – he loves to face his opponent and then uses a skill move to beat him.

He developed his game in the 2021-22 season, which we can examine in the image below, mapping all the chances he created with the ball he carries.

The red lines indicate the ball bearing that results in a shot on goal. Look at how many people saw him start from a wide position before cutting from the inside and shooting right outside the penalty area. Most of these rounds will be accompanied by an overlapping series of right-back Mazraoui.

The yellow lines indicate the ball carrying that led to a pass from Anthony. Note the wider starting position, and how cross passes are delivered to the near post or pull back to one of Ajax’s many forwards. A number of these tours will be accompanied by an overlapping series of Mazrawi.

If you were worried that Anthony couldn’t make the jump from the Eredivisie to the Premier League, take a look at the chances he created in the Champions League last season. Anthony is still successful in getting those passes. Try to imagine Cristiano Ronaldo or Anthony Martial beating them.

Anthony is a strong player, not a great goalscorer.

A look at his shot map from last season gives evidence of a man fond of long-range, low-quality effort from outside the box. He appears to be able to get close to goal with shots, but he often tries to shoot through a crowd of bodies, rather than spending his time working around them like Jadon Sancho.

What does his arrival in United’s attacking hierarchy mean?

The vast majority of his appearances with Ajax came under the leadership of Ten Hag playing with him as a right winger. Factor in the excellent transfer price, and it is reasonable to assume that Anthony will be the starting right winger at United.

This will have a number of ramifications for the players around him. Sancho – bought to be the solution to United’s right-side woes – is likely to become Manchester United’s primary left winger, as we saw against Southampton. Sancho played most of his games last season on the left flank and he is more of a direct threat to goals than a goalmaker when working on this winger.

Ajax, led by Ten Hag, has often used a right-footed player on the left and a left-footed player on the right: Sancho and Anthony will continue to favor inverted goal creators who can cause overburden and multi-faceted attacking moves.

Sancho’s move to the left means Marcus Rashford could become an option on the bench on the left wing or as a striker. Rashford’s best performance as a No. 9 comes when he plays against two (or more) creatives on the ball. Anthony’s arrival could make it a more feasible option in the game as either Martial or Ronaldo rests.

United beat Liverpool with the following starting lineup…

… they can now start the Premier League matches like this …

…with this as an option for Europa League and domestic cup matches…

There is one more thing to discuss before we go…

You mentioned Mazraoui a lot. Would Anthony be OK playing with Dalot at right-back?

Can. Maybe not.

United will likely need another right-back in order to make the most of Anthony, Sancho or any other right-sided striker.

Dalot is a curious player who can walk away from the “Jack of all Trades, Master of None” area. Sancho is better on the right when playing in front of a right-back who overlaps, with Anthony preferring his full-back to being below. Dalot showed some proficiency in both, but the intensity of his run and the quality of the final ball leave little to be desired.

Perhaps Anthony’s playing style will lead Dalot to focus better on his attacking game and become more than just a right-back forward. Perhaps Dalot’s passing ability could see Anthony resort to fewer long-range shots and work more closely into the penalty area.

All in all, Anthony’s arrival will bring another offensive tool to the Ten Hag team. He’s young and talented enough to be a key member of the (hopefully) United revival and the years that followed.

(Image: ANP via Getty Images))


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